Wednesday I drove up from SJ and did a warmup -- west face of Cockscomb (11065'). Beautiful afternoon to be out. Near Budd Lake I greeted a lone dude practically running across the meadow. He was doing the Cathedral traverse. There was still snow on the saddle between Echo Ridge and Cockscomb, but it was soft in the afternoon.
Great views of Matthes Crest too -
I scrambled up one of the chimneys and then the west summit. The east summit "fin" may or may not be the higher one.
Maybe next time I'll do the fin, but I wasn't really feeling up to it, having come from sea level to 11000' that morning :) There were some great views of Cathedral Peak and from what I could tell the descent gully on Conness was probably dry.
Next morning I started from Saddlebag Lake around daybreak and made my way towards the tarn east of Alpine Lake and the east ridge of Conness.
There were still snowfields above 11500' and I was glad to have brought an ice axe -- it was cold enough in the morning that some standing water had frozen, especially in the shade.
I wasn't moving particularly fast, and the snow softened in the sun.
The North Ridge looked good.
I slogged up the loose ledges towards the summit plateau, and topped out near a snow tongue and a huge cairn. This was the closest I'd been to it since 2006, when a friend and I did the North Ridge.
There wasn't much snow on the plateau itself, and some guys I met up on the summit told me that a lot had melted off over the last two weeks. A use trail led down to the descent gully, again marked by a gigantic cairn. Gain 2500', lose 1400', here we go -
There were some snow patches in the talus below, but nothing really major. At long last, I made my way to the base of the West Ridge.
The approach from Young Lakes didn't look too bad. Maybe next time ..
I'd read Peter Croft's description and several trip reports on the taco over the years .. the left side sounded like the way for me :) I put on my tape gloves and up I went, trying not to get into too much trouble too quickly, warming up the climbing muscles slowly.
The route was beautiful, lots of good rock and great holds. Oh. My. Pretty soon I was looking down the first pitch or two.
Soon I came to the "exposed" part. Wow. WOW !!
Where has this route been all my life ?? :) Now I see what all the fuss is about. At some point the route ended and all there was left was a class 2-3 scramble to the summit. I changed back into my approach shoes and headed up.
A couple of dudes got up there minutes before I did. They were all like "which way did YOU come up ??" They'd come up one of the chutes from the glacier, after kayaking Saddlebag Lake and camping. We gazed off at distant peaks and took the usual dorky pictures.
The weather was flawless. Nonetheless after having my usual summit chocolate bar I decided to descend. It always amazes me how convenient the granite steps are down to the summit plateau. I wonder about the history of those -- surely someone on the taco knows something :)
The snow on the descent was nice and soft for plunge-stepping as I made my way back to Alpine Lake.
The picaridin I'd applied early in the morning was no match for the mosquito horde. But there are few places I'd rather be than Tuolumne in the summer.